Musing over the state of the travel & points “game” for 2018 – Things are going to be very different.

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The Platinum Card® from American Express

Still not one penny lost so far with Kiva!

What will it be like in 2018 I wonder? We just learned yesterday one of my favorites for earning ~6% in travel cash has died. US Bank finally, after many years, got smart(ish). Next year this means, when each flex perks point drops to 1.5 cents fixed value each we could max earn 3% firm via Kiva loans. Still not a horrid return (for free on short term loans less than 1 year) but not a slam dunk like it has been. I like FMs idea of using Kiva to clear out small value VDGCs earned at 5x as my local sources no longer allow split payments on small cards. As they say, there is always another way!

And that brings me around to what I think next year will be like. First Delta.

I have some interesting data points to share as we all sit on pins and needles waiting for the next   enhancement   upgrade   improvement   devaluation to the Medallion program. A few days after I broke the news of what the mothership has planned to roll out for the 2019 Medallion year (that we start earning for on 1JAN18) I penned a post to give Delta some choices other than the draconian one that would surely end up with mass Delta CO-Branded Amex card cancellations. It seems it got their attention. Normally ~20 unique readers per day come to the blog from Delta computers (I can track that, yes). But for that post well over 100 looked that one over. Let’s hope someone takes credit for one of the ideas as any of them would be better than what is planned.

Having said that, if you have not taken the time to write to Delta and Amex with pen and paper (shame on you) please still take the time to do so today! It is not too late to have an impact. On to other bits.

Credit & travel cards. Boy, has this space changed over the past 10 years. We have gone from small rewards to super awards on new cards. But that has not come without pain. We have Chase who stupidly have their 5/24 that IMO is one of the reasons their credit card division is hurting so much nowadays. We have Amex with their 1x lifetime cap for new card bonus deals (rumored to be 7 years) that also will cost them. A better choices would be 1x every 2 or 3 years IMO but they did not ask me. We have others like Citi that have pooled cards into families and limited bonus to every 2 years. The point is they all are trying to stop “gamers” i.e. those only signing up for a new card bonus then dumping the cards (and spending as little as possible for the bonus). The secret is not difficult, card issuers i.e. just provide value after the bonus and folks will keep and use the card.

Card spending for 2018. Many are terrified about the RATS and justifiably so (rats stands for Reward Abuse Teams at banks). The only thing worse that missing spend totals and not earning a bonus is for a bank to suck back a bonus you earned. What this could mean for next year is moving back to basics on many levels i.e. finding spend that is either “blessed” or takes a bit more work. There should be no problem with over paying taxes at the appropriate time and getting a refund (and eating about a 1% net fee for mega spending). Kiva, as already mentioned, could end up being more useful than ever (yes, it ties up money for a period of time, but there are ways that can only cost you just 1% as well). Without hammering this one to death right now there will be ways for little cost to us to keep this going and still be reasonably lazy getting it done.

So what is the point of today’s musing? The sky is not falling (yet). When the banks, airlines et al change things for the worse we will adapt. There IS always another way and we will find it. It may not be as ridiculously easy as it once was (hello mint coins) but that is OK by me because I like the chase and love the game we play. – René

 

 

7 comments

  1. even though I would get very close to the 2 cent/pt value (20,000 pts for a $400 ticket) using the Southwest ticket trick (or 4 cent/pt if you consider the companion pass); I’m more disappointed that US Bank Flexperks is dropping from 3X to 2X at charities like Kiva.

  2. USBank continues to disappoint me….I have been faithful user since Northwest days but guess I will start looking at alternatives….

  3. Still a shame…….sent something to all the addresses I had for AMEX and for Delta…….got one cookie cutter response from Delta and have heard nothing yet from AMEX……I spent TONS of money with them last year I thought they might value my business more.

  4. @Rene I booked a $398.60 Delta ticket for December which is 1.993x. That’s the closest I’ve gotten to 2X (I understand the SW trick but prefer rev flights.

    On the philosophical end… I had my own consulting business for 15 years and my accountant always reminded me of the saying, “pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered.” This was with regard to tax deductions and how some people claim every single cotton picking penny (whether they are 100% justified or not) and we’re almost guaranteed to trigger an audit. Even if it was 100% legit, months of time are wasted with an IRS guy looking over not just that particular return, but ALL returns. Same goes for cards. One suspicious card spend can get them looking at all accounts.

    Another way to put this is try to stay under the radar. You don’t need to outrun the grizzly bear, you only need to outrun the guy behind you (who is M$ing 150K per month and getting shut down).

    One thing I never, ever do is use my current minimum spend card for ANY purchase that may be returned. Period. I do not want any negative purchases to show up and trigger the RATS team. In fact, if I do have to return something, I ask for store credit (i.e. $20 purchase at target). Keeps things clean, FWIW!

    Thanks for al the great posts and looking forward to MNL.

  5. I like the chase and love the game we play. – René

    Ditto!!! The real fun is flying for 3 cpm at the pointy end of the plane while doing an end run around the spend threshold.

    Long live the game!

  6. I received a canned message from Delta (which is typical from them). I sent a written and emailed letter to Am Ex and someone did call me and told me they had no info on any changes, it was nice to have someone actually phone for me for once instead of sending a copy and paste letter or email, Am Ex has had great customer service and I really hate to see them suffer due to Delta, but I’m looking out for myself and all my business will be going to other credit cards on January 1 if they do make this change.

    I don’t think we’ll ever see a return of great programs like the dollar coin purchase program or the old Southwest Rapid Rewards program where you could earn a companion pass and 1 to 2 tickets a month without ever giving them a revenue flight

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